December 13, 2010

"The Fighter"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
On Friday, I was shocked like the rest of America to learn that Richard Nixon had been taped in the Oval Office subscribing to a stereotype: “The Irish can’t drink.…Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”

On Saturday, I went to see The Fighter, a first-rate biopic about the pugnacious family life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, “The Pride of Lowell.” The Fighter is only the latest in a long series of Oscar contenders, such as Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, and The Departed, about sozzled Greater Boston residents pounding the hell out of each other. In recent years, awards-season movies have featured working-class Irish giving each other fraternal concussions almost as often as upper-class English serving each other tea in a marked manner. Both The Town and The Fighter are good bets to join The King’s Speech as Best Picture nominees.

Read the whole thing there.


25 comments:

Anonymous said...

On Saturday, I went to see The Fighter, a first-rate biopic about the pugnacious family life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, “The Pride of Lowell.” The Fighter is only the latest in a long series of Oscar contenders, such as Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, and The Departed, about sozzled Greater Boston residents pounding the hell out of each other.

I know you don't get cable, but Showtime had a [pretty darned good little] series about the Irish in Providence, RI, called Brotherhood, starring Jason Isaacs, whom we now know as Lucius Malfoy.

Anonymous said...

Pick a different Nixon quote to defend (there are some, for sure), but this one isn't the best; most Irish (including myself, and I haven't a drop of American or English blood in me) get really melancholy when they drink, and surely you're familiar with that....the violent ones are a minoirity

Eileen said...

"The Irish can’t drink.…Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish."

Sure we get mean when we drink too much. Fortunately we also get "legless" so we're not so much of a problem. ;-)

Anonymous said...

The Irish ethnics in South Boston are pretty street tough. Up until recently, blacks and Latinos were terrified to go into southie.

Simon in London said...

I grew up surrounded by hard-drinking young men, undergraduate students from the Republic of Ireland. They certainly could not handle their drink (they made English drunks look exceedingly demure and restrained), and when drunk they did like to fight. I'm not sure 'mean' is the right word though, unless it just means "wants to fight". They didn't get particularly mean-spirited. Usually they were most danger to themselves, and my mother spent a lot of time saving their lives when they fell into freezing streams, fell through plate-glass doors, and so on.

I remember how there was always broken glass everywhere and I couldn't go outside bare-footed.

IHTG said...

"Particularly the real Irish."

Who are the fake Irish?

Anonymous said...

Too bad it looks like this movie skipped out on Ward's legendary series of fights with Arturo Gatti. Gatti is no less of an interesting character himself, especially if you consider the manner of his untimely demise.

Dave said...

Second Anon's recommendation of Brotherhood. Excellent show, like The Sopranos but with clearer story arcs and fewer pretentious detours.

For those who haven't seen it, here is the fight that made Ward semi-famous. The first time I saw him fight was in his match against Burton, which was also great.

Anonymous said...

Nixons really one to talk about mean drunks.

Anonymous said...

The best Nixon film was 'Secret Honor' starring Philip Baker Hall.
In a tour de force perfofmance Hall plays Nixon strictly as one man monologue with two stage props - an ivory handled revolover and a bottle of scotch.
Nixon rants and insults his way through the film (raging against the world alone, but in exactly the same country club bigot ethnic slur dropping mode as the Nixon tapes reveal, in this instance Jews are the main targets of the jowly swine's venom).
After taking copious swigs from the scotch bottle, the rants get louder and madder (so much for Nixie's Irish slurs).Throughout the performance Philip Baker Hall lovingly fingers the pistol even putting it to his skull, but lacks the resolve to do 'the honorable thing'.

Anonymous said...

Actually my old Dad (of a similiar vintage as Nixon) was always making comments stereotyping various ethnicities.
His opinions were very similar to Nixon's.

Anonymous said...

The local papers here in the People's Republic are all exercised about local ladies being protrayed in the aforementioned movies as big-haired hos. According to today's Boston Herald, Ward's and Eklund's sister Phyllis walked out of the premier when she saw how she was depicted.

Jill Quigg, however, is the real white trash deal. She couldn't attend the Gone Baby Gone premier because she was in jail, and she was recently arrested for a B & E in Quincy!

Brutus

Anonymous said...

"The Irish ethnics in South Boston are pretty street tough. Up until recently, blacks and Latinos were terrified to go into southie."

Over on his blog, Peter Moskos recently observed that he felt safer as a white guy going into the predominately black slums of Baltitomore than he did as a non-Irish person goiing into Southie.

asdfasdfas said...

The transformation of Mark Wahlberg from punkass fool to one of the more decent(and successful) guys in Hollywood should inspire us all.

Anonymous said...

Places like Bensonhurst, Howard Beach, Charleston and Southie (in Boston), and south Staten Island are still a little scary for minorities. The Italians and Irish are pretty territorial, though not as much these days.

I'm not surprised that he'd feel unsafe going into southie. Southie used to be very resistant to outsiders, black or white. Then they integrated the all-white housing projects and the area gentrified. So now you have a lot of upscale whites and, in the projects, minorities. I'm not surprised that southie is going the way of a lot of big city neighborhoods (ie high housing prices, lots of SWPLs, minorities in subsidized housing, working class and poor whites moving out). It was inevitable. I am surpised, however, that southie was able to hold out for so long against the outside world.

I guess it's that fighting Irish spirit that just really doesn't like to be pushed around. Back in the 70s, the southie Irish rioted over busing.

Southie also produced the infamous gangster Whitey Bulger, who is worth reading about.

Italians in east and north Boston don't like people on their turf either. There was a time when the Irish stayed away from Italian NE Boston and the Italians didn't go south.

In these current times, it's hard to image a tough and violent white neighborhood. I think it's one of those curiosities of American life that all these neighborhoods have gentrified or NAMified so much.

Anonymous said...

'Who are the fake Irish?'

The ones who don't get mean when they drink.

Dutch Boy said...

All stereotypes are more or less accurate.
~John Murray Cuddihy

Anonymous said...

Secret Honor is the worst movie I ever sat through. I sat through the premier one seat from Altman then next to Altman. My wife sat next to Altman to begin with.

He was rude to my visibly pregnant wife to the point that I had to switch seats and told him to shut up or leave.

I had no idea he was the director. We saw it as part of the Seattle Film Fest's 'Secret Film'.

We (my wife and I) both judged it as the dumbest movie ever. Altman did not look pleased after the movie ended.

Anonymous said...

'Secret Honor' of course, shows Nixon as a broken man, the bathos of ejection from high office.
A similar film was made a few years back about Hitler as a broken man admist the Russian shelling of his bunker.

asdfasdfasdf said...

I have a certain prejudice against the Irish though it is unfair. It owes largely to the public image of the Irish in the US and the world. When I think of 'Irish', the image of Officer McCluskey(Godfather)comes to mind first. I also think of the nasty fireman in Ragtime. I think of James Cagney being pugnacious and unpleasant. I think of white people who talk a funny limey sort of English. I see men beating up women and children. I see drunkenness. I see terrorism of IRA. I see white guys trying desperately to be soulful and black. I see Bono. I see people with fat red faces, thick red necks, and swinish hair on the necks. I see Catholic priests and nuns abusing kids, especially girls. Magdalene Sisters was pretty horrifying. I see potato at every meal. I see hot tempers but without the flamboyance of Italians. Grey rage than colorful rage. I think of corrupt machine politics of NY, Boston, and Chicago. I see Riverdance, which is about the gayest stuff I've ever seen. I see clannishness almost on the cutthroat Sicilian scale, again without the color and spice.
Though Brits oppressed the Irish, I associate the imperial British with greatness, pride, achievement, discipline, dignity, and all that Chariots of Fire stuff. Though my sympathy should be with the Irish, they just lack likability. There was a recent movie by Steve McQueen(black British director, not the movie star)which showed the Irish prisoners rubbing their shit all over prison walls. It's hard to sympathize with that shit.

asdfasdfasd said...

I heard the word 'Jihad' has two meaning. One means 'fight the infidel' and the other means 'fight the devil within yourself'. Given Wahlberg's own biography, 'the fighter' of course has double meaning too. Fighter as in boxer and fighter as in someone warding off one's own demons. It's possible that the two brothers in the Fighter represent the two sidees of Wahlberg: one prone to crime and delinquency AND another who wanted to earn respect and be someone. The good Wahlberg had to fight the bad Wahlberg to remake himself and become somebody in Hollywood.
But the irony is the good Wahlberg depended(and perhaps still depends) on the bad Wahlberg. It was as a 'bad boy rapper' that Walhberg first got noticed and was given an opportunity to star in a movie. Also, showbiz is kinda crazy, and normal people generally don't pursue it. Many people who succeed in showbiz would have been total losers otherwise. Same in boxing.
Scorsese, the best American director of his generation perhaps, could have become a priest or a gangster. (Mean Streets).
And generally, sane people don't go into boxing. It is a crazy sport for crazy people who wanna punch and get punched. Yet, too much craziness is self-destructive.
Some professions require a kind of controlled craziness. Without some degree of craziness, one probably would not go into something like showbiz or boxing. But without controlling that craziness, one ends up like the druggie brother in The Fighter. It's like walking a tightrope.

Boxing movies are interesting for generally being stories about losers, outsiders, nobodies, and rejects trying to be somebody, prove something, or redeem themselves. One reason is it's long been considered the black man's sport. Black guys like Jack Johnson proved in the ring what they couldn't in society. A story of black underdogs proving their worth and power to white society.
But because blacks became so dominant in boxing, whites came to be seen as the underdogs with something to prove against the black champions.(Kind of role reversal.) Since poorer whites went into boxing, boxing movies tended to be about ethnics like Italians, Hispanics, or the Irish.
And Million Dollar Baby was about a girl.
Boxing is also a strange sport in that it is both the most individualistic and most 'nationalistic' of sports. It is about an athlete fighting all by himself against another individual--different from team sports. But the individual is seen as the embodiment of the aspirations of an entire race, community, or nation. Ali was a hero to blacks like no one. And Max Schmeling was seen as the Aryan god of boxing before he got clobbered by Louis. Maybe it's because boxing is the most warrior-like of all sports.

adfadfadsf said...

Irish are the only peole who can make Catholicism as dull as Protestantism.

Anonymous said...

The reputation for dysfunction often given the Irish in New England really belongs properly to the French Canadians.

The truth is the Irish enjoy upper middle class existence as much as nearly any white group. Southie and some of the other working class neighborhoods functioned as kind of eugenic sieve. The downside is that the new breed of Irish American is very cold and individualistic type relative to the warmer and more community oriented forbears.

Truth said...

"I think of white people who talk a funny limey sort of English. I see men beating up women and children. I see drunkenness. I see terrorism of IRA. I see white guys trying desperately to be soulful and black...."

Don't look now, Asss-Daft, but I think you've made a whold new series of friends.

BamaResident said...

"I see Riverdance, which is about the gayest stuff I've ever seen. I see clannishness almost on the cutthroat Sicilian scale, again without the color and spice. "

The hell? Riverdance is gay? Most of the world disagrees. I doubt Americans would be so fond of claiming Irish ancestry if any of your long cartoonish diatribe were relevant.
Most Irish Americans are upper-middle class these days (there are plenty not in Boston too!). They are more verbally oriented than mathmatically. They are a little eccentric, and probably overly obsessed with Irish-themed knick-knacks like my grandmother is. And take it from someone who has seen both sides of the spectrum on the paternal and maternal sides of my family. Irish Catholics are a little clannish compared to mainline protestant upper-middle-class "WASPS" I guess, but that isn't saying much. Irish Catholic clannishness has nothing on the clannishness of white southern baptist "scots-irish" (closest term although for most there is lots of english, huguenot french, and "cherokee" typically thrown in) rural people. I'm talking family reunions with hundreds of people here.